Lockdown brought young drivers ‘closer together’

Date published: June 21 2020

Alexander Albon and George Russell

George Russell says the lockdown and increase in Esports activities brought Formula 1’s younger drivers together.

In the absence of real-life racing Russell has been one of the drivers who turned their hand to competing regularly in online racing, and he ended Formula 1’s Virtual Series by winning the last four events consecutively.

He isn’t sure whether these closer relationships will last now that F1 is preparing for the 2020 season to start in under two weeks’ time, but is certain that the lockdown had a positive impact when it came to the friendships between younger drivers.

Speaking on The Race Esports Podcast, he said: “I’d say in the Formula 1 world, my only proper real friend I would say would be Alex [Albon], he’s somebody I would chat to on a regular basis.

“But we [the Virtual GP regulars] are obviously all friendly with each other, but during this time it has brought us closer together.

“We have done things that we wouldn’t have done previously, and we’ve built a stronger relationship because of that.

“Whether that will continue when we get back [to real-life racing], I don’t know.

“Obviously we are all at sort of different points in our career, we are all fighting for different results I’d say.

“Probably the only two drivers who would probably ever clash together would be Charles and Alex, as they’re in similar-performant cars.

“Obviously Lando’s at the front of the midfield, we [Williams] are at the back end of the grid. So we’ve got no reason to have any issues with one another, because we’re all sort of doing our own little races. As disappointing as that is.

“But like I said, we’ve all known each other for years and years and years, and it’s just been nice to sort of rekindle that relationship.”

F1 managing director Ross Brawn was full of praise for the sport’s Virtual Series and thought it had been fantastic for driver/fan interaction.

“Of course with Esports, you’ve got a much better insight into the drivers’ personalities and their characters and their nature. That’s been a real boom,” he said in an interview at the FIA eConference.

“Lando Norris, George Russell, and all those guys, you probably wouldn’t have seen as much of, but they’ve suddenly come to the forefront, and their personalities have come out.

“I think that has been a really useful element of Esports, and we always supported it.

“We had our Esports championship with every team participating, but they would be with professional gamers most of the time.

“I think the real racing drivers taking part has been a massive boost to Esports. I’m sure that will have a lot more support and a lot more resource in the future.

“We’ve seen massive positives on that side, and we’re not going to want to let them go. Formula 1 is very committed to it.”

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